Anyone who has pointed out hatred, bigotry, unequal treatment or violations of constitutional or civil rights on the western slope has heard the phrase over and over: “If you don’t like what’s going on here, you can just leave.”
That is what many western slope residents say to people who aren’t like them, who moved here from somewhere else, who disagree with them on issues or assert their constitutional rights.
Here is the “If you don’t like it, you can just get out” sentiment expressed by one Grand Junction resident to another on social media, along with a personal insult (“idiots like you”) for good measure, which helps the writer dehumanize her target:
So what’s so bad about saying “If you don’t like it, then leave”?
Bobbye Horton-Huddleston’s sentiment is based on a fundamentally immoral principle: It tells people who are actively being oppressed or persecuted by others that it’s their duty to leave, not the persecutor’s duty to recognize or take action to stop the hurtful behavior.
The statement doesn’t refute any of the arguments being made. Rather, it is a way to dodge the real arguments and additionally is a tacit admission of guilt. The phrase also serves several rhetorical functions for the speaker: 1) It shuts down the discussion so the person who says it doesn’t have to admit they are being immoral and hurting others; 2) It’s a form of victim-blaming because it prevents the speaker from having to acknowledge the perpetratrators’ actions or the victims’ pain or hurt; 3) Telling someone to “get out” because they don’t agree with you also indicates a clear failure to recognize the problem at the heart of the discussion: Where we live isn’t the problem. The problem is the people here who seek to violate others’ rights.
Immorality on parade
This particular display of immorality has become so pervasive in our area that it is accepted as normal behavior, even among people who to represent themselves to the community as religious role models. Here is the same “If you don’t like it, leave!” sentiment expressed by none other than “Reverend Robert Babcox,” senior pastor of the Orchard Mesa Baptist Church:
Saying “if you don’t like it, you can get out” is the equivalent of telling the other person “Everything you told me is factually correct, but instead of acknowledging it, I’m going to distract from the real issue by shifting the burden of fixing the problem onto YOUR shoulders instead of mine.”
In using the phrase, the speaker admits cruelty and injustice are being done, but feels it’s acceptable and disavows any responsibility for correcting the shameful behavior. It’s what someone typically says when they realize they are losing a debate.
Saying “if you don’t like it, get out” in a discussion does more to point out the immorality and willful ignorance of the speaker than it does to move our area towards a more nuanced understanding of civil rights, and what the ideal America is really about.